New Delhi: Mohammed Zahur Hashmi composed the music of just 57 films but their songs are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful to be heard on the silver screen.
“I could easily have done 200-plus films like most contemporary musicians, but I was clear that I didn’t want to compromise on quality,” said the legendary music maestro, better known as ‘Khayyam’, in one of his last interviews two years before his death in 2019.
Footpath (1953), Phir Subah Hogi (1958), Shola aur Shabnam (1961), Trishul (1978), Umrao Jaan (1981) and Razia Sultan (1983) are, to many of Khayyam’s fans, all about the music and they would return to these films more than once just for the pleasure of listening to the songs.
Khayyam was trained in classical music in his youth and was fond of poetry — he brought the best of both to his work. Some of his best compositions put to music poems written by Mir Taqi Mir, Nida Fazli, Sahir Ludhianvi, and Jan Nisar Akhtar. In terms of musical genre, it is difficult to put a label on his versatility. His music was composed according to the demands of the script and the song.
The past week was Khayyam’s second death anniversary. ThePrint attempts a list of his best songs across different genres and moods.
‘Aey dil-e-nadaan’, Razia Sultan (Melancholic)
Starring Hema Malini and Dharmendra, Kamal Amrohi’s Razia Sultan is based on Delhi’s only woman ruler. ‘Aey dil-e-nadaan’ is picturised on Hema Malini who plays Razia. The song was penned by poet Jan Nisar Akhtar, but what elevated it to another level was the combination of percussion instruments and santoor, played by maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma. The sarangi which had not been frequently used in Hindi songs of that era, adds depth to the music.
The combination of sounds of these instruments conjures up a visual of crashing waves in listeners’ minds. Khayyam wanted the orchestration of the song to depict the musical influences of the regions the historical Razia Sultan travelled through while arriving in India from Turkey. Not just the musical beats, but even the silent pauses used at appropriate intervals in the song create a hauntingly melancholic yet mellifluous effect.
‘Dikhayi diye yun’ – Baazar (Poetic)
This ghazal by 18th century Delhi poet Mir Taqi Mir was recreated by Khayyam for the Sagar Sarhadi film Bazaar which highlights the tragedy of young girls of poor parents being sold to rich men in the Gulf.
Khayyam’s music was a perfect balance to the lyrics of the song — neither overshadowing it nor underplaying it. Combining poetry with appropriate melodious tunes was Khayyam’s strong suit. Noted Ghazal singer Noor Jahan especially complemented Khayyam for this song and marvelled at how he came up with the perfect ‘murki’ (variation) at the word ‘Juda’.
“Kitna khoobsoorat gana hai..lekin ye bataiye, wo sur kahaan se lagaya aapne (What a beautiful song..but tell me, how did you find that tune)”, Noor Jahan is believed to have told the composer).
‘Mohabbat bade kaam ki cheez hai’ – Trishul (Celebratory)
Composed in a style similar to a qawwali, the song is a celebration of love and beauty. Khayyam gives this song a peppy and uplifting mood by introducing some western instruments, but it does not take away from the seriousness and effectiveness of the poetry written by Sahir Ludhianvi.
‘Kabhie kabhie mere dil mein’ – Kabhie Kabhie (Romance & fantasy)
The song is the eternal lovers’ anthem to express love and longing. Khayyam collaborated with Sahir once again for this film and created music that remains etched in our minds even today. Never has a song been so soaked in love and melody.
‘Paon padoon tore shyam’ (Devotional)
While all the filmy songs by Khayyam deserve all the applause, the mention of his musical brilliance is incomplete without mentioning this non-filmy bhajan, sung by Mohammad Rafi. ‘Paaon padoon tore shyam’ is a simple and delicate melody and is immersed in devotion to Lord Krishna.
(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)